Crash course: The food scene in Cologne – Part 2
A garden eatery, Michelin-starred restaurants and a cocktail bar
We start off in the morning in the city’s most beautiful garden – Cologne Botanical Garden. Guided by the charming Kirberg Catering team, we get to create a fantastic DIY breakfast. Freshly baked cronuts simply taste even better when there are fountains and seas of flowers to feast your eyes on. Later, we get to explore the city’s culinary hotspots.
If there’s one thing the crash course makes clear it’s that there’s a lot happening in Cologne. Young restaurateurs are taking the plunge with new, inspiring concepts. And making a success of it. From Cologne-style bistro cuisine that got itself a Michelin star without even trying, to ambitious bar tenders serving ingenious drinks to complement each course (instead of after the meal), to creative caterers revolutionising the picnic.
Dank Augusta by Kirberg Catering
The Flora, part of Cologne’s Botanical Garden, is one of the loveliest spots in the city. No two visits are the same since the park is forever changing and there’s always something new to discover. In 1863, Emperor William I became patron of the construction and upkeep of the magnificent Flora. His strong-minded and unusually liberal wife, Augusta, campaigned to ensure that the Botanical Garden was open to all, which is why the eatery in the park is dedicated to her. Since the listed building didn’t actually have the necessary facilities for a restaurant, Kirberg Catering had to come up with a creative idea, which turned out to be a picnic concept. Guests choose their favourites from the lovingly put together menu, pick up their filled picnic bag at the counter and then look for a place to sit on the patio.
Delicious salad variations, such as falafel salad with pickled pumpkin and peach or pasta salad with dried apricots, root vegetables and seabuckthorn, come served in jars – as does the goulash of pasture-reared beef, the vegetable lasagne and the Black Forest gateau. It’s a practical concept and kind to the environment. A yummy picnic at the Flora – Augusta would have loved it too!
Am Botanischen Garten 1a, 50735 Cologne
Chefs Jan Cornelius Maier and Tobias Becker only set out to open an urban bistro with modern Cologne cuisine. Clean interior design, laid-back service and cuisine from the Rhine region – that was the underlying concept. Becker and Maier are pioneers in Cologne when it comes to regionality. Their ingredients are sourced exclusively from local producers and they have even joined forces with several to establish a collection and delivery service for restaurateurs. Food that tastes like home is the logical consequence of sustainable product procurement for these two.
In a nod to the sweet and sour elements that define the cuisine of the Rhine region, dishes such as head of veal with apple mayo and sour beans or sourdough bread with pickled gherkins, Gouda creme and fresh cress feature on the menu. The Guide Michelin even awarded the place a star for its concept and its food – although the two chefs weren’t actually aiming for such an accolade. But the star has made no difference to maiBeck – the attitude and the prices remain unchanged.
maiBeck – Für Dich
Am Frankenturm 5, 50677 Cologne
Ox & Klee
Daniel Gottschlich is a gutsy guy. Having cooked his way to a Michelin star at his restaurant in the popular Belgian Quarter right in the city centre, the young chef de cuisine decided against playing it safe and basking in his success, instead packing up his pots and pans and moving to the Rheinauhafen development. Of all places – various restaurateurs have failed there due to a simple lack of custom. But Gottschlich went one step further, choosing a location in “Crane House 1”, one of Cologne’s new landmarks, which was more than double the size of the old one and had to be completely revamped. He also opened a cocktail bar, the Bayleaf, on the ground floor. It could all quite easily have gone horribly wrong – it could have, but it didn’t.
Ox & Klee impresses with an incredibly stylish, design-savvy interior, a gorgeous view of the Rhine and excellent cuisine. The principle in this restaurant, which is being touted as the next contender in Cologne for a second star, is “carte blanche”. Guests merely decide the number of courses; the rest is a surprise. The amuse-bouche is a sensation in itself, whisking the senses off on a trip around the world, which is followed up by a six-stage journey, through bitter, sweet, umami, fat, salty and sour, to get guests’ taste buds tingling.
In the Bayleaf cocktail bar, head barman Michael Elter mixes delectable drinks to complement the dishes that come out of Gottschlich’s kitchen. In this new and exciting “cocktail pairing” concept, Elter serves, for instance, his self-made parsley tequila with lime and creme de cacao to accompany a dish of tuna with avocado, yuzu and cucumber.
Ox & Klee
Kranhaus 1 (middle crane house), Im Zollhafen 18, 50678 Cologne
One of the city’s most charming bars is Suderman. Rather than simply imposing their concept on its location, Dominique Simon and Felix Engel wanted to integrate the district into the bar. To do so, the two accomplished bar tenders explored the past and present of the Agnesviertel district and incorporated the stories they found into their cocktail menu. The best way to find out what “Marktplatz”, “Little Italy” and “Miljö” actually mean is to ask them the next time you visit!
Dominique und Felix are gifted bar tenders, always working on new methods and recipes. Despite (or perhaps because of) that, their aim is to put the “pub” back into “bar”. That goes for the whole place, from the dress code (there isn’t one) to the bear tap. There always three to four different beers on tap, a selection of craft beers and a beer-and-chaser menu. Yep, you read that right: they actually think about what chaser goes with what beer. Guests can also choose from a range of fantastic snacks, such as pastrami sandwiches or sweet and sour pickled vegetables.
Whenever they’re not working on seasonal cocktail recipes, you’ll find them trying to set up a bar camp or planning cocktail-pairing events with restaurateurs. At the cocktail-pairing events, dubbed “Speis und Trank”, the bar is transformed into a restaurant for one evening and Dominique and Felix serve drinks to complement the guest chef’s menu. For dates, featured chefs and prices, take a look at their Facebook page.
Sudermanplatz 3, 50670 Köln